How to Build a Strong Brand Identity
What is your brand? Who is your brand? And why should we care?
When most people think of a ‘brand’ they think specifically about a logo (known by graphic designers as a ‘mark’) – Nike’s swoosh, McDonald’s golden arches, Coca-Cola’s wave. While a logo is certainly one very important part of a brand, it’s so much more than that. Let’s start with Brand 101: A brand represents everything you are as a company. Everything that you say and do shows your prospective customer who you are. It’s your “dress,” the way you talk, your slogan, your signage, your messaging, how clean your offices are, company uniforms, your collateral materials and so much more.
To figure out who you are as a brand, ask yourself these questions:
- What is my positioning statement? (Where is my space in all of this clutter? What does my company offer that no one else does? Why are we special?)
- What is my messaging platform? (Why should anyone care? What’s in it for my customers?)
- What’s my brand persona? (Who is my target customer? Who is my company?)
Positioning and messaging are a huge–and often underplayed–part of a company’s brand. They help you figure out how you can be a trusted company in what can often seem like a world of muck. Go Media is a creative firm that does Cleveland Logo Design, so in this post, we’re going to focus on the visual aspect of your brand, but we just want to make sure we stress the importance of messaging. The things you say are as important as how good your brand looks.
Close your eyes for a minute. If you had to talk about your company as a real person. Who would you see? Try to imagine your company as a movie star. Is your company Brad Pitt or Morgan Freeman? Someone young and hip? Old and stodgy? Middle aged and reliable? What about your customer? How do they communicate? How does your target customer like his coffee? You should live and breathe your brand persona so much that that answers to questions about your brand should roll off of your tongue. “Duh!” You should be telling me, “We’re an almond latte kind of company!” Or maybe you’re a tea company, or a pop company. We can’t answer that for you–only you can. This is the first question of many you should ask yourself about your brand persona.
Once you figured out your brand personality, it’s time to start working on the visual components of your brand. When creating your brand, it’s important to take its various components into consideration: logotype (the word), mark (commonly referred to as a ‘logo’,) and color scheme.
- The logotype is a distinct font that represents your company. It should be meaningful to your brand. Bold, curious, flirty, simple–fonts speak visually to your prospective consumer and should be an extension of your brand persona.
- The mark, or the symbol, supplements the logotype. If your brand is edgy, be edgy! If your brand is laced up, be more formal. However, always remember that your mark should (not too be too cheesey) help you make your mark on all things visual. It should work well in black and white, not just in color. Additionally, you should be able to use this mark on any design work–print or online. Think about how it will be displayed on social media, on eblasts, on brochures, on t-shirts, or on uniforms… just to name a few visual outlets.
- The color scheme. It should use one or two primary colors, one accent color, or colors of differing value. Creating a strong brand color scheme will facilitate your brand’s flexibility across print and online, and it will also help make your brand visually appealing.
If your logo is good enough, you’ll be remembered. I suppose if it’s bad enough, you’ll be remembered too–but certainly no customer will trust you.
We’re going to get on our soapbox right now and tell you that for the love of all that is good in this world, please don’t think that once you have created a logo, you are done. So many brands focus on just this one part of their visual identity. While the logo is vital to a brand’s identity, it isn’t the only visual piece of the puzzle that helps set you apart from your competitors. Your logo, my friend, is just the beginning of your visual brand identity.
Let’s say, for example, you want to create a brochure so that you can tell the world how amazing your company is. Where should your logo appear on the brochure? What kind of header will you use? What kind of typeface will follow? What size font do you plan to use? What kind of photography or imagery will be included? What’s your white space/copy ratio? What kind of voice are you using in the copy? Does the piece feel simple or intricate, casual or fussy? You see, it’s not as easy as you might think to release a brochure. Just like your logo, this brochure should exemplify who you are as a brand–it’s an extension of who you are. Your customers should immediately see and feel the synergy between your logo, your chosen imagery, your words, and YOU. This thought process holds true for every single piece of collateral that you release…no matter how big or how small.
It seems daunting to live up to your brand persona in each and every piece you release. That’s probably why, time and time again, we see a brand that looks and feels different on various pieces of collateral. Maybe you’re using different designers or firms or heck!, maybe an in-house designer is adding his or her flair to your logo, or whatever piece you’re currently creating. Creating a Brand Standards Guide can help keep things consistent. On the Brand Standards Guide, include an example of the mark and logotype. Include fonts. Include colors in RGB, CMYK and Pantone. Include best practices such as uses and spacing. And finally, include example designs. Sometimes, we even see sample copy on a Brand Standards Guide. A solid Brand Standards Guide helps ensure that no matter who is helping push your brand, you’re all pushing the same brand–not spin offs of one another.
In no way are we saying that each piece has to look identical. We’re a creative firm–we’d never tell you to go for visual boredom, or ask you to turn into a boring machine spitting out identical pieces, one after the other. Instead, we’re saying that visual consistency is vital to your brand. By following these tips, your customers will create a stronger connection with your brand that they can trust. Trust = repeat business, which, at the end of the day, is what we all want.
Questions? Get in touch! We’d love to help you no matter what stage of the brand process you are in. We can’t get enough!
And check out our Brand Guidelines Template, now available over at Go Media’s Arsenal!
When you design a logo for a client, are you including a Brand Style Guide? You know, a document that tells the client how to use their new logo? If not, you should be. A well done Brand Style Guide provides tremendous value to your client and can earn you more money on logo design and branding projects.
But how do you know what goes into your Brand Style Guide? And designing it takes up a ton of extra time, so wouldn’t it be nice if someone like us did all the work for you so you just have to replace all the content with yours and be done with it? Yes, that’s what we did! Learn more now